I wore my iPod headphones in the car tonight. I know – not a good practice. I had simply had enough of the torrent of discord flooding my car as we headed down I-270. The rain outside seemed to fuel the dissension inside. I took a moment to pray and then took off my headphones pronouncing “All of you are breaching the dam!”
Have you ever seen a dam that is becoming or has become breached? It is a fearfully awesome sight. There are great pictures of the Teton Dam breach taken by Eunice Olson at www.geol.ucsb.edu/faculty/sylvester/Teton_Dam/Teton Dam.html. A small trickle turned into a deluge on June 5th, 1979 and unleashed disaster on many towns; the Teton reservoir took only four hours to spill through that little leak.
I showed these pictures to my kids to give them a visual of the picture painted in Proverbs 17:14. Little verbal leaks for the sake of argument can rapidly turn into spirit-killing confrontations. Here is an example of a conversation that is breaching the dam:
- “you’re so smelly and I will vomit if you put that close to me!”
- “I will vomit if you continue to talk to me!”
- “I will vomit all over you and then you will know what smelly is!”
- “I will vomit all over myself and make sure you have to smell it all the way home!”
The creativity of the diatribe increases with age. Most young kids start with the singsong “this is mine and you can’t have it” while older kids may entice with “They love me best!” Regardless of how the conversation starts, the purpose is enmity. It shows a heart of selfishness and hostility designed to cause strife. I did not want to deal with the consternation in the car, but God’s job for me in their lives is to train, even at the end of a tiring rainy day.
Stopping the breach is not simple, especially in the car where the purpose is to keep the vehicle on the road despite the surly children in close proximity to one another. We have discussed and trained for dam breaches. My kids know the heart consequences of breaching the dam and are aware that verbal violence can quickly lead to emotional and even physical damage. They know that Solomon knew what Thumper from the movie Bambi meant when he said “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”
Proverbs 17:14 in The Message substitutes “leak” for breach and warns us to stop before the dam “bursts”. We practice how to stop the seepage before the burst and choose to focus on the heart damage when things have calmed down. This is why I had to utter only one phrase to stop the leaks from becoming a full-blown collapse. Conversations about heart changes came when we arrived safely at home. Just like a disaster crew cleans up after the flood waters recede, we cleaned up the emotional and spiritual wreckage of our dam breach. We then prayed for mouths, hands and hearts of loving-kindness.
Training Tip: Make your own dam after viewing the photos of the Teton Dam collapse. Read Proverbs 17:14 together. This is a great family project for the sandbox, the beach or the bathtub.
Resource We Like: Peacemaker ministries has many practical ideas for peacemaking strategies for families.